The fourth instalment in Pixar‘s Toy Story series and directed by Josh Cooley, Toy Story 4 sees Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) finding himself left in the closet as the gangs new owner, Bonnie (Madeleine McGrew), doesn’t seem to need him any more. So, when Bonnie’s self-crafted and beloved Forky (Tony Hale) needs some help, Woody makes it his mission to show Forky why he should embrace being a toy. But when Bonnie takes the whole gang on her family’s road trip, Woody ends up on an unexpected detour that includes a reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts), whose adventurous spirit and life on the road belie her delicate porcelain exterior.
When news of a fourth film was announced, I wasn’t particularly excited for it. The third instalment was certainly a lot better than I thought it was going to be, but I didn’t think they could do it twice and I really wanted the franchise to end on a high. But this fourth instalment has surprised me once again.
Full of compelling storytelling and exciting escapades, Toy Story 4 is another impressive instalment in what’s already the best animated franchise of all time. It’s the sequel we didn’t know we needed, but it is the perfect conclusion for our favourite toybox gang, one that will certainly win you over with emotion, humour, and heart.
Whilst all of the Toy Story films so far have had a slightly darker twist to them, Toy Story 4 hints at something more sinister going on, but when it all comes down to it, everything is done out of pure love. It’s certainly a much lighter and heartwarming instalment, but it is one that focusses on relationships, adventure, and finding your place in the world.
What I like most about the story is that it takes a female character who was once nothing more than a background character who Woody took a bit of a fancy to, and it sees her take charge, take off her skirt and wear it as a cape, embrace her spirit and encourage others to live their lives however they feel fit. In the days when equality in film and storytelling is hugely scrutinized, you see so many films attempting to take its female characters and make a point of them being strong, independent, and all-powerful, but always in such an obvious way. Yet it feels effortless here. Bo doesn’t need to make a point of anything, and her character developments seem so natural that you don’t question the studio’s motives to have her lead Woody through this instalment. That’s just how it should be.
And because of Bo’s reintroduction into the franchise, the concept of toys having feelings for each other is explored fully for the first time (although it has previously been hinted at with Buzz and Jessie). As if Toy Story didn’t have enough heart as it was, but I’ve never found myself wanting two toys to kiss so much in my life before. The fact that I could feel the romantic chemistry between Woody and Bo says enough about how well written and developed these characters are.
Most of all, Toy Story 4 is beautifully animated. It looks absolutely sublime. And with new voices from Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, and Ally Maki, this fourth instalment makes so many improvements that it could easily be my favourite if the first two weren’t such classics.
Just like Toy Story 3 was, this fourth film is another perfect conclusion to a magnificent series of animated films. Will it end here? It’s unlikely due to how successful the franchise still is, but I think that Pixar now needs to consider that the way this film ends means that the franchise will need to go in a whole new direction. That may be exciting for new fans of the franchise, but I think original fans are hoping for this to be the gang’s final outing, as good as these recent additions to the franchise are. It’s just not worth the risk.